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Discussion Starter #1
Hi AlfaBB,

I finally took the jump and bought a 1991 164S 5 speed. 121k miles, only 20 miles a week put on it the last 15 years. I drove it 2 hours home in bad holiday weekended SoCal traffic, and came up with a few questions for you knowledgeable alfa veterans.

1. Powered up huge hills at 80mph in 5th no problem, but in bumper to bumper it started to stumble into first gear and smoke quite a bit (only into 1st, after 1st no smoke). Oil pressure gauge dropped to 1st bar, no light. Low on power too, made some weird sounds (like low on oil). Once it cleared up it started to drive better again, more power, no sounds, no smoke.

2.There is a wierd metal rope in the exhaust pipe, see attached pictures. Any idea what this is and if it is a concern? Possibly related to #1?

3. Only driver window works, other 3 have no response to when pressing switch. No sounds, nada. Where to start? Ac has busted stepper motors, so I'd like to have working windows.

4. How the heck do the door locks work??? I have 2 keys, one opens the door. The other starts the car. Door key will unlock all the doors, but will only lock the drivers door.

Thank you!
 

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Nice looking example. Sorting out the minor faults won't be too hard. Congrats.

First of all, when was the timing belt changed last? This is important in the extreme. These engines are well-known to skip belt teeth and bend valves if neglected. 30k miles or 5 years max, whichever is first is what most owners use as change interval.

1. Oil smoke. Check the oil separator for gunk/clogging. Classic symptoms for that.

2. Oil pressure. OEM pressure sender units are notoriously inaccurate and fail. Replace with a SUNPRO unit and compensating resistor. See this thread:

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/164-168-1991-1995/198632-164s-oil-pressure-gauge-sunpro-sending-unit.html#post1161390

3. Metal rope in exhaust pipe. No clue at all. Have you tried pulling it out?

4. Stepper Motor. A bit of a pain to replace, but not as bad as most make it sound. Follow the steps in the Alfa video and advice from the BB. I've done it twice. Let me know if you need a replacement stepper assembly. I have a couple of rebuilt ones on the shelf.

5. Door locks/ignition Key. Sounds like someone in the past changed the ignition switch. Although not related to your problem, there are two different keys . . . a "valet" key which can restrict a valet from opening the trunk, and a regular key.

6. Door lock problem. Could be bad connector at the Door Lock Control Unit under the right had dashboard. Or bad control unit. Factory Maintenance Manual has a troubleshooting procedure.

7. Windows. Same. Check fuses. Try turning the lockout switch on and off a few times. (long thin push-on/push-off switch on the center console with the other window switches). I don't think this will do anything, but try. I assume you've tried both the switches on the doors and the one on the console?

First order of business should be to read the Alfa Owners Manual front to back. Second, contact "Papajam" here on the BB and get a set of the Mechanical and Electrical Factory Manuals from him. He's the Alfa Romeo Owner's Club (AROC) Librarian.

Secondly, familiarize yourself with the search function of the BB here. There is almost nothing that can happen to your car that hasn't already happened to someone else.

Thirdly, look through the sticky thread +:
http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/164-168-1991-1995/141647-alfa-164-alfisto-steves-maintenance-tips.html

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/164-168-1991-1995/189340-my-take-buying-164s.html

http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/164-168-1991-1995/158259-alfa-164-buying-guide.html
 

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Low oil pressure should not be a problem. The oil pressure sender units always go bad. Worry if the low oil light comes on. Replace the oil sender with a Sun Pro unit, but be careful installing it as the threads are slightly different...Do a search and read about it.
The window problems are most likely bad switches. You can buy good used, or take them apart and clean them with contact cleaner. Don't throw them out though. Someone will want bad switches to fix:)
The 12V 3L V6 engines run a lot of valve train noise. Is that what your hearing?. I suggest you change the oil to a heavy grade like 20W 50 or higher since your in CA and you don't know what oil PO was using.
164s have 2 keys. A master key that works everything and a "valet" key that will only start the car and lock the doors. It won't open the trunk or glove box, unless someone changed the locks for some reason.
When it's in stop and go traffic, it's not over heating is it?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the quick replies. This site is the best resource I have found online, the community seems pretty positive and helpful so I'm excited to finally be an alfa owner. I did my research before I bought it so I know what I'm getting into. I paid what I think is very little for the car (2.5k), so I have some $ left for parts, labor, etc.

T-belt is low mileage but old, done in 2005. Only 10k miles on it since then (car fax report proves it), but I plan on taking it to an alfa shop in the OC in the next week or so to have it changed before I start driving it.

I think I made progress on the door locks. They all work except the right rear, it doesn't lock with the rest of them. I'll just leave it locked for now, it's a low priority.

I will work on the windows, I was hoping they would be an easy fix. I tried both sets of buttons, and only the drivers window works. I had no clue what that button did, so I will give that a shot. I will also look at the switches. Good advice, I'll keep the old ones.

They are running 10w 30 oil in the car (found in the trunk). I will swap to something thicker like you said and will look into the oil separator. I think that has to be it, it spits out black carbon buildup when I accelerate. It only smoked in traffic, now it's just fine. It never got hot, even with the weather, traffic, and hills for so long the needle maxed out a hair over half. I'll track down a sunpro to get the gauge right.

The AC system is a mess, I'm a tad afraid to touch it now. That will come after the windows and smoke problems. It made a click every second that got a tad old 2 hours in. I found a setting where it is quiet so I'll count that as progress.

The metal rope is not just sitting in there, it feels secure. I haven't tried pulling it super hard, I was worried what would come out haha

She needs some love but i think I can get her in good driving condition. Some leather cleaner, elbow grease, and a few parts and I'm hoping to have some fun!
 

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The timing belt is way way overdue. I'd not drive it except to the shop at most.

Oil. In this engine with flat tappets you want to use something with high ZDDP in it, which cuts down your choices a lot. Many 164 owners, including me, use Mobil 1 15w-50 full synthetic.

If you want to stop the ticking from the steppers, open the glovebox, remove the square inspection door top left, and unplug the big plug there. That will kill power to the steppers until you get time to change them out.

If the A/C is blowing cold air, just not where you want it, that's good.

You'll want to inspect the serpentine A/C drive belt, the idler bearing, and the A/C compressor bearing. Those are also common failure points that bear inspection.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I agree about the T-belt. I should have towed it home but it was a spur of the moment thing. I have AAA, I plan on flat bedding it to the shop for the replacement. It made it the 2.5 hours home, but I felt like I was pushing my luck.

Thank you for the stepper advice, it was driving me mad. It blows cool air (not super cold), but very weakly, and I can't control where.

I'll swap out the oil to Mobil 1 15w-50 full synthetic.
 

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That rear exhaust doesn't look stock. I bet the "rope" is muffler packing. It can't really be anything else. I'd try real hard to pull it out.
 
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"I was hoping they would be an easy fix"

In general, they are. You can pop them apart, remove the thin film that seals the innards, and then spray with electronics cleaner or just plain WD-40. That should get them working. Has work for me for a couple of decades now. Once done to them in the 91S, and they've been fine since.

I suggest using Valvoline VR1 20W-50 oil since it still has the higher levels of anti wear chemicals these engines were assumed to need for the flat tappets. Costs a lot less than the Mobil1 15W-50 ($6-7 vs $9-10), esp if the car uses oil as many 91S's do, and probably leaks a little less, as the molecules of the 'dino' oil are generally larger than the synthetic so I've read.

I also recommend that you use the small oil filter from the 24V 164. Much easier to work with.

I would also replace that idler and belt. You could try the Dayco 89042 replacement off of eBay, and save the other pulley and belt for your 'get home' box of spares, fluids, belts, etc you will have in the trunk. It's what I'm running right now to try, seems to work, and didn't cost an arm and a leg (~$25). Trust me, you don't want that thing to seize or blow up, because it leaves you stuck somewhere without the water pump, which means the car isn't going anywhere. Don't bother asking how I know this, lol. My 'get home' box has the few tools needed to change it and the belt quickly.

As for the a/c, yes, change the bearing if you decide to. There was a kit developed by some BB members which allowed one, with a little effort, to be able to drive the car without the a/c pump at all, moving the alt down to the a/c pump position while using a shorter belt (a little shop time required to do this). My 'get home' box also has this kit. Search the BB for the discussion on this.

The exhaust? I agree that this looks like some muffler innards. There were a couple of OEM tail pieces for the S, one where the pipe out of the muffler splits into two tubes AFTER the muffler, and the Cisam where there are two pipes coming out of the muffler. I think the Cisam is much better, but I'm not sure you can get them anymore. There is Ansa, but I've personally never liked them, the sound being different, with a drone at certain rpms. Once again, my own opinion.

As suggested, take off the oil vapor recovery can, and clean the hell out of it. They require considerable cleaning to get the crud out, which tends to plug the drain to the engine sump. If plugged, excess oil will then get forced through the hose to the intake, where you don't really want it.

Have fun with the car, though. You will like it.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The exhaust is not stock I know that for sure since PO told me. I'm not sure what brand it is though. Had problems passing smog in the past, but it had new Cats installed last year and it passed after that. I thought muffler junk would be more like hair, this is metal, but that's a good of guess as any. I'll give it a tug and see what happens. I'll keep it sitting for the next week or two until I can have a t-belt service done.

I'll tackle the windows and locks my self, but I'm going to flatbed it to a shop in the Orange County or Inland Empire to take care of the belt and smoking problem. Those seem like the critical things to get straightened out.

Also, it has the brown leather recaros in it, rear is perfect, passenger is okay, but the driver has seen better days. From what I've read they are a bit rare. I'm better off saving up some $ and having it redone in a shop rather than looking for a whole new one right? I have a great upholstery guy in the OC who did my 5.0 mustangs tops and seats.
 

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The tan interiors seem to show wear a lot more than the black, especially if they weren't meticulously cared for. Getting a color match might prove difficult. You might look into some leather repair/refinish guys. I've seen some repair/refinish work that was amazingly good and cheaper than replacement.

On the timing belt change, you should discuss with your mechanic the options of the standard mechanical tensioner or the OEM hydraulic tensioner. You might take a good flashlight and look down on the left side face of the engine (as your standing on the right side of the car) and see if you're car still has a hydraulic tensioner (kinda doubt it). The picture below is not real good but you might be able to see the top of the hyd tensioner if it's still there. This pic also has the plastic timing belt cover removed. Most likely, however, it's been retrofitted with a mechanical one at the last belt change.

There's been reams of info on the BB here on pros/cons on both. I prefer the Hydraulic because it negates any worries at all about the engine inadvertently being rotated backwards (e.g. roll back on a hill) and slipping a tooth or more. The reputation of the hydraulic however is that it can leak, although I think with the new seals that's no longer a significant problem. Also, by the time you source a salvage hydraulic tensioner and put a new ($175) bearing on it, you're probably going to be into it for about $350 vs. $170 for the mechanical tensioner.

Also, the mechanical tensioner is very sensitive to the installation. If the installer doesn't do it right, he can break one of the springs and render the tensioner weak and prone to belt slippage and subsequent valve damage. The spring can also break in service as well. That said, many owners have no problems with them. By contrast, the hyd tensioner are virtually bulletproof from a belt slippage/valve damage aspect.

Do some searches on mechanical and hydraulic tensioners on the BB here and you'll get an idea of what guys think of both and decide with the advice of your mechanic. Not trying to make you paranoid about the timing belt, but it's one item that has to be 100% right. A slipped belt more than a tooth or two is going to bend some valves.
 

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Not sure how handy you are with wrenches, but removing the oil separator and cleaning it out isn't that hard. You could probably do that yourself.
 

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Another 5.0 guy, nice!

Good luck with the Alfa! Lots of fun they are.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I'm no mechanic, but I'm not afraid to get dirty. If it only uses a wrench I can pull that out no problem. Where is it located?

I tried pulling the rope, it's definitely metal and it's not coming out. I can push it back in, but it doesn't want to be pulled any farther out.

I located the t-belt, but can't tell if it's hydraulic or not. I cant see your photo Roadtrip.

Spitfire, we have to be in a group of only a select few who own 5.0's and 164s.
 

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Peruse the Fiat parts eper on line (eper.fiatforum.com), and get a copy (disc or paper) of the workshop manual if you can. Both are essential for doing anything with these cars, IMO.

The oil vapor canister is located on the back side of the head closest to the windshield, has a rubber hose from it to the intake bellows, and a small drain tube leading down underneath to the lower engine crankcase. Be sure to clean that drain tube as well as the canister. It is held on by two hex drive bolts. One hint, before you put it back on, slot the two attachment tabs so that you won't have to remove the two bolts the next time you want to remove it to clean.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I found the ovs. Funny enough it's the only part of the engine that's not squeaky clean. I'll give it a kerosene bath today. The car smoked on start up now (didn't when I come started it with PO), and has soot conning from exhaust. Fingers crossed that's the problem and the engine is okay...
 

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Well we have 5 liters and sooty Alfa's in common! How much smoke on startup? Just a puff?

Watch your oil consumption. I'm thinking the nasty black stuff out the tail pipe is a product of that, as well as some moisture sitting in the exhaust. Some times I get it and sometimes not. I've been using the car consistently lately and notice less of the soot. Most trips are long enough to get everything nice and hot.

Nothing seems to be any worse for wear in the end. I imagine you'll find it'll smoke a little under hard acceleration too.
 

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Here's what a clogged up OVS does: it uses intake vacuum to create positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) and depending on how well it is functioning and how much oil vapor you are producing in the crankcase some of that oil vapor condenses in the connector hose after shutdown and drains into the intake boot between the AFM and the throttle. This is what causes that puff of smoke when you start up after sitting for a time after a spirited drive.

I would tell you how to fix that but, as you can see, I haven't completely figured it out yet myself.

 

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might help, might not, might confuse

Misc OVS stuff. I cut this one apart to clean it. Gas works well. I think keeping it cleaned out goes far in how things run. That's alot of oil Mr Paul. Maybe the 4 does it differently... ciao jc
 

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A pretty decent pufft. Hard to tell if it's white or blue, I'd guess blue though. After intial start up it's little tiny bits of smoke and soot. Exhaust is caked with soot on the inside. The car was only used for short trips, maybe by taking it for a long drive all the oil gunk got past the ovs. Oil is dark as well but not milky. Still working on getting the two ovs bolts out, star shape only fits a few old bike reaches I have and I decided to take a pancake break ☺
 

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Sounds to me like an oil change and Italian tune up might be in order after the timing belt is changed
 
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